school, teachers, authoritarian systems (1) 

I said I wanted to post something on this but I’ve been having trouble arranging my thoughts. Still, let’s start with teachers: like everyone else I can remember all kinds of teachers: good ones, bad ones, ones we liked and ones we didn’t, idealists and time-servers, friendly ones and petty tyrants - and people always talk about “the good ones” who “make a difference”, but the interesting thing is this: school, as an institution, doesn’t change.

school, teachers, authoritarian systems (2) 

School as an institution - carceral, regulated, hierarchical - hasn’t changed significantly in a hundred and fifty years or more. There are hierarchies of oversight to keep it that way. But there’s also the logic of the institution itself. Say you’re a teacher who wants to make a difference. You can try to listen to and learn from your pupils; to inspire and challenge them; all that. But the obstacle is this: some of them don’t want to be there.

school, teachers, authoritarian systems (3) 

And pupils who don’t want to be there are a problem because you can’t just let them do what they want. Schools are designed only to accommodate one set of behaviours without disrupting the teaching process. So your first priority must always be to maintain order - which is to say maintain the institution - because anything else you want to do depends on that.

school, teachers, authoritarian systems (4) 

There’s more I could say, but that’s the core of it. Authoritarian systems co-opt and corrupt because once you accept their logic, maintaining the system becomes your first priority, however idealistic your nominal goals are. And people who disrupt the system become your enemies because they stand in the way of your goals, and we’re on the way down.

re: school, teachers, authoritarian systems (3) 

@ghost_bird Seeing as you’re already talking about this you might already be familiar with democratic education, but it’s worth raising for people who may not know - in some school systems0, you can let students do what they want.

Students want to learn new things - it’s our overbearing educational system that turns that around and makes students dislike school. Take away the authoritarianism and make sure people are around to teach the students the things they want to learn and students love school.

re: school, teachers, authoritarian systems (3) 

@reed I’m more interested in anarchist models of education myself but, yes, I know better approaches exist and have been tried.

school, teachers, authoritarian systems (3) 

@ghost_bird This seems a particularly salient point, and probably core to why my school experience was mostly so good - it was a place where, more or less, everyone had striven to /be/ there, so there wasn't any disruption, as everyone was, to varying degrees, genuinely invested in the learning offered. (I was mostly a scientific sort, taking readily to biology, physics, and chemistry, found geography worthwhile - it helped that the tutor slipped little details like raw goods providing sweet FA of an income to "poor" nations, with all the profit coming further down the line - and will always be thankful for Latin, providing such an insight into multiple modern European languages. History was a total bust, though - just dates, places, and Important People's names from a few centuries past, lacking any greater social context)

One of the mathematics tutors had the best simple sign pinned up: just "I.M.A.S." - "Is My Answer Sensible". Wise words. ^_^

school, teachers, authoritarian systems (3) 

@porsupah Hm. I went to a reasonably fancy prep school and a stolid minor public school - complete with Latin and the usual trimmings. But I didn’t find that made things better.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

A fire is burning in Bird Spirit Land.